The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

To Gauge a Campaign’s Triage, Look at the Candidate Stops


The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt begins with a look at rumors of the Obama campaign triaging states, noting that for all the talk of ad spending, there is one truly finite resource the campaigns must manage:

Both campaigns will have piles of cash; the one truly limited resource is the candidate’s time. Obama spent Wednesday in Iowa and Ohio. Today he’s scheduled to campaign in New Hampshire and deliver remarks at the 67th Annual Alfred. E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City. The President will return to Washington, DC in the evening. On Friday, the President will travel to Camp David, where he will remain overnight. Monday’s final debate is in Florida.

Obama’s base in northern Virginia makes it easy for him to drop in while traveling in or out of Washington. If you see Obama making fewer and fewer stops, or no stops, in North Carolina, post-debate Florida, or Colorado, then it’s a strong hint that the campaign strategy has indeed shifted.


It’s not that Romney has insurmountable leads in FL, VA, and NC, it’s that Team O has to decide how to allocate what’s left of its campaign treasury down the stretch and there are better bets for them than those three states. Triage, in other words. Mitt’s up 4.7 points on average in North Carolina, which would be tough for O to make up, and 2.5 points in Florida, which might be doable but would be hugely expensive in terms of reserving enough ad time to make a dent. I’m a little surprised to see Virginia included — O actually leads there by eight-tenths of a point, although Romney’s (narrowly) won the last three polls, so maybe Obama’s campaign figures it’s not worth resisting that momentum in a state they don’t really need. They do kind of need Colorado, though, and that actually looks tougher than Virginia for them at the moment: Romney leads by seven-tenths of a point and has won six of the nine polls taken since the first debate. If I had to guess, I’d bet they’re looking at Virginia and Colorado now as an either/or situation; if Romney’s lead opens a bit in one rather than the other, that one will be written off and an investment made in the closer state.

But wait, there’s one more “what the heck?” bit of news Wednesday night, from Chuck Todd: “Yesterday, Obama campaign added Minnesota to their national radio buy. Today, campaign announces Jill Biden will campaign there this week.”

Minnesota? Minnesota? I have never, for a moment, thought Minnesota would be in play this cycle – literally, as Joe Biden would say.

The polls have Obama up by less than I expected — a GOP poll has Obama up 4, PPP has Obama up 10 — but . . . really? Really?

Keep in mind, Jill Biden is the no bigger than the fourth-biggest asset the Obama campaign has, behind the president, first lady, and the vice president. But still . . . Minnesota?

One other Jolt thought to keep in mind:

The End of Obama’s Negative Campaign Ads?

Jim Hoft provides a quick look at two fascinating bits of analysis from Karl Rove.

“The Obama campaign has pulled down all of its negative advertising. And is now running virtually all positive ads in the battleground states heralding all the success of the last four years. This is very unusual because they have been constantly beating up on Romney. In recent weeks the president’s negatives have risen and Romney particularly after this debate has moved into a lead. You saw it in the Gallup poll you talked about. Six point lead, 51-45. Yesterday it was 50-46. This is the first time that Romney has hit 50 percent in the Gallup likely voter poll and the president has never hit 50 percent in the likely voter poll. And no candidate who has led in mid-October with 50 percent or more in the likely voter poll has ever gone on to lose.

The disappearance of the negative ads offers two fascinating conclusions.

1.       Think about all of those negative ads run by the Obama campaign and Priorities USA all summer long — millions upon millions of dollars’ worth — and Romney undid them with one debate performance. One debate performance! Political consultants for years to come will study this, and the conventional wisdom that negative advertising works may get reexamined by the professionals.

2.       Can you run as brutal and bare-knuckle a campaign as Obama and his allies have, and suddenly go positive in the final three weeks? If Obama had any kind of a compelling, positive message, why hasn’t he been running on it from the beginning? (There are two million early votes cast already.)  What better way to reveal that the campaign has no faith in its overarching strategy than to make a sudden total shift in a crisis?

Tags: Barack Obama , Electoral College , Mitt Romney


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